Green is More on Fillmore

When Brad and Kathy Workman decided to build a home in a historic neighborhood, they knew two things for sure: It would be as environmentally friendly as possible, and Brad’s career in architecture would help bring it to life.

Brad called on his old friend Keith Wingfield, managing member of River Rock Builders and a specialist in green and environmental design, and with realtor Brandy Harp’s help securing a property, the team set out to construct a new, green residence in The Heights.

And although life has since drawn the Workmans away from the capital city, what now stands on North Fillmore Street is a home in harmony with its habitat and inhabitants. Soirée sat down with the couple and Wingfield to learn more.

Credit: Jason Masters

Brad, how did your background in architecture, particularly in integrated practice, influence how you approached a project so personal?

Brad: I was a young registered architect when a recession occurred. That motivated me to return to college and pursue a degree in computer science. The majority of my career has been in the CAD (computer-aided design) and BIM (building information modeling) industry where I initially wrote software for architects and engineers and later became an executive in a CAD/BIM international company. I applied BIM during the design and documentation process. Integrated practice meant I involved the contractor (River Rock Builders) during the design process to get their input before the design was finalized.

Why was it important to you for your home to be energy and environmentally friendly?

Brad + Kathy: We wanted to be good stewards of the planet. Therefore, we made this home a high-performance, net-zero house. We applied many of the “passive house principles.” This house is one of the [most air-tight] houses in Arkansas. … Of course, you need fresh air in the house, and we achieved this with a ventilation system that filters and dehumidifies the outside while recovering heat or cooling.

As one of a few “green” builders in the area, what are some of the notable ways this house meets those standards?

Keith: The most critical methodology for green building is to reduce the overall demand for energy, either electricity or natural gas. This is done by creating a better “building envelope” for the entire home, reducing the air leaks in or out of the home while still bringing in the fresh air necessary for any new home to be healthy and environmentally clean. We used both open cell and closed cell foam to help accomplish this with a key focus on where and how to apply the foam. Foam is not a cure-all, and if used improperly can cause greater harm than good. We’ve trained on all the aspects of energy efficiency and green building to bring high performance to each home we built. Finally, the use of a small amount of solar panels takes care of the rest of the equation for green building by providing electricity for the small amount of energy required for this high-performance home.

Credit: Jason Masters

What are some elements you’d never know are green, or better yet, perform better than their traditional counterparts?

Brad + Kathy: Desiring to apply the passive house principles meant the house had to be all-electric and energy efficient. We discovered that induction cooktops are up to 10% more energy efficient than conventional electric stoves. Additionally, we discovered a heat pump hot water tank consumes up to 60% of what a standard electric hot water tank consumes.

What did you learn from this project that you’ll take with you going forward?

Keith: We used the electric hybrid heat pump water heater for the first time, and it seemed to perform very well. I hope to be able to compare its performance with the tankless natural gas water heaters that we normally use.

What green home trends do you think will stick around for the long haul?

Keith: Builders must begin to use fresh air systems to introduce clean air into the home at a temperature that can be tolerated. Our technology tempers the air to a usable range so that we are not introducing hot or cold air into the home, rather we put air that is near normal temperature and heat or cool it to bring it to the set temperature of the HVAC system. This is a must for a healthy home.

Credit: Jason Masters

What are some ways you were able to blend fun and function on the property?

Brad + Kathy: We like to swim for exercise, and the pool heat pump powered by solar panels allowed us to extend the swimming season considerably. With the recent tornado activity, we also decided to build a FEMA F5-rated shelter inside the house. We insulated it and added a cooler, allowing it to become a dual-purpose wine cellar/storm shelter.

What is your favorite feature of the Fillmore home as a contractor?

Keith: The outdoor area with the pool wrapped by the U-shaped house and accessory garage building, along with the spacious rear patio, outdoor kitchen and invisible electric screens make this area a must-use place for any homeowner. In addition, I think the eyebrow front porch roof made of copper is a unique architectural element that fits The Heights Historic District very well. My compliments to Brad on this feature.

What advice would you give to first-time home builders?

Brad + Kathy: Have patience with the subcontractors. We would also tell them not to be afraid to step out of their comfort zone when building their home. In the past, we leaned toward modern designs. With this house, we felt it should honor and fit in with the older homes in The Heights, so we settled on a modern Craftsman style with the eyebrow entry roof.

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